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EcoReality Co-op Newsletter

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I thought things were supposed to slow down in winter. But I can't seem to get a newsletter out in less than seven weeks. Hope you've missed us!

It's going to be a lean newsletter this month, as we're getting ready for our 2010 winter retreat, where we're going to indulge in four days of strategizing and priority setting.

Woodshed, er, "carport" has a roof!

Carol and Rudy are channelling Kilroy, who was Here, in our new woodshed.
You may recall, way back in February and in March, that we started a woodshed expansion project under the capable direction of Chris Walker. (Thanks, Chris!)

Chris, Yun Kang, and Rudy set posts, re-used the white horse fence we had carefully taken down when we put up deer fence to make laminated beams, and built trusses, when the building inspector paid an unexpected visit. We then had to make engineering drawings and show how it could be done without a permit, which sort of took our momentum away for six or seven months as priorities shifted. After all, we didn't really need the woodshed until winter, right?

We eventually met with Uli Temmel, the building inspector, who was quite sympathetic, and who helped us come up with a way of completing the shed without taking out a permit. (We were willing to take out a permit, but that would have required us to dig up our recycled cement block foundations and pour new ones from virgin concrete, which we were not willing to do, on sustainability grounds.)

Our new "carport," with roof and north "fence" complete.

The problem was that the structure was over 10 square metres (107 sqft). The solution could have been simple: chop the roof line up so that no part of the woodshed was over 107 square feet, but a complication arose: no structure can be within 3 metres (10 feet) of another structure. Sigh. But Uli thumbed through the Code and found an exception. "You planning to park anything in there?" he asked?

"Why sure, we're planning to put the tractor in there," I replied.

"Great!" Uli said, "It's a carport, then!" Apparently, carports can be as close as 1 metre (3 feet) to another structure.

So, I pulled two trusses out and called Uli over to check it out. But I had left the two beams in, which still made it one structure. On the north side, we had cleverly disguised the woodshed wall as a "fence," which is not subject to building codes, so that could stay, but the south beam had to be broken with the roof line.

So it took another couple months of working on priorities before Uli came out one final time and said British Columbia had no further issues with our "carport."

Brenden Morris made it his personal mission to get a roof on it before he went back to the Yukon to earn more money to support his farming habit, then Carol, Rudy, and I put in polyethylene "skylights" in the gaps left after chopping the structure into three. Then Susie Anne and Shannon joined us to put mill slabs up on the north side, as our fence/wall. Now all it needs is some siding on the east wall, and some partitions between the storage bays to make stacking wood simpler.

We have a few more minor construction projects happening before we start building housing, and I think the lesson learned is to either keep them below 107 square feet, or to involve the building inspector very early in the process. But the great thing about this "carport" dragging out so long is that so many more people got to take part in its assembly — thanks!

Land of milk and (someday) honey

Carol milks at night in our mobile milking parlour.
When winter arrives, it's time for retrenching, for gathering your resources and becoming more efficient. We do this by moving our animals closer to home, so we won't have to trudge through hundreds of feet of snow to take care of them.

Maya, Priya, Shakti, and Tuccha moved into the front yard of the yellow house for winter. We put up two strands of electric fence, knee and hip high, which won't keep a determined goat out of your garden, but the key to any fence is to make sure the animal has no need to escape. Make it more comfortable inside the fence than outside, and you won't have many jail-breaks!

We only fenced two sides, counting on hedgerows to the north and west to hold them in, but one day, we got a call from Sharon, who care-takes the United Church that is right in front of the yellow house. "I think your goats have found their way into the church yard," she said. It was a pleasant enough call — Sharon and Gene have livestock, too, and know that these things happen. So we went and strung a line of "dark" electric fence across the north hedgerow separating the church from EcoReality. The goats don't know it isn't electric, and they haven't challenged it since. (We also went over to the church yard with a shovel and picked up all the "gifts" the goats had contributed to the grave sites.)

We've harvested nearly 1,000 litres of goat milk this year, which along with our eggs, is now supplying a significant portion of our protein and fat! These are more challenging dietary requirements than vegetables are, and it brings us a broader sense of food sovereignty than we get from a vegetable garden. We've been working on preservation techniques, and have been making cheese — a crucial way of storing protein and fat for longer than a bottle of milk lasts in the refrigerator.

Land purchase fund drive update

EcoReality Land Purchase Fund Drive Progress
EcoReality Co-op's land purchase fund drive is in full swing, at 57.12% of goal, with only $728828 remaining by September 2010, just
0 days
from now! You can help!
We're making progress in securing the land for sustainable food production for ourselves and the greater community. The thermometer has moved over $20,000 since we last reported to you!

But significant challenges remain, and we're looking at all avenues. We're currently working with Heather Pritchard of Farm Folk/City Folk on strategies for securing the land. FF/CF is a wonderful non-profit society committed to supporting local, sustainable food systems, through providing access and protection to foodlands, supporting local growers and producers, and educating food consumers about the importance of local food sovereignty. They currently have 17 projects in the works, and we look forward to working together with Farm Folk/City Folk in the future.

We're also planning to work with Ramona Scott, Agricultural Programs Manager of The Land Conservancy (TLC) of BC. TLC is known for its Community Farms Program, which has goals of:

  • securing farmland for local food production,
  • helping new farmers access affordable land,
  • information sharing on governance, practices, management, and training, and
  • assisting farmers, land owners, and communities to support community farm development in BC.

But above all, we want the involvement of you, a person interested in implementing strategies for a sustainable future. As mentioned in our last newsletter, we have a variety of ways you can be involved, from outright gifts, to pledging loans on the most favourable terms you can offer, to becoming a shareholder in EcoReality to assure our future.

You can help!

Thanks, Jason!

The Adventuress.
Jason Sneed takes a break from turning shingles into kindling.
Jason first came to us as a volunteer in July, and liked it so much that he came back in November.

He's a self-described vagabond who also volunteers as a marine naturalist aboard the Schooner Adventuress, whose mission is to "educate, inspire and empower youth of all ages to learn to protect Puget sound."

When he runs out of money, Jason builds websites via telecommuting, which fits in well with a vagabond life-style. He also does free-lance journalism and party artistry.

I suspect we'll probably be seeing more of Jason's trademark bowler hat in the future. (That's how I spotted him at the ferry.)

Thanks for your help, Jason!

Winter retreat

Our second annual winter retreat is happening Monday, 3 January through Wednesday, 6 January. During this time, we'll be developing strategy and long-range plans, and setting priorities for the next year and beyond.

Beyond priorities and planning, we're going to focus on site design, fund raising, project management, and more.

It's short notice, but if you have a big interest in EcoReality, a retreat is an opportunity for "EcoReality immersion," and a chance to see how we operate and to take part in our planning and strategizing. All we ask is that guests attend all or most of the sessions, to maintain continuity and to avoid re-starting the process as people arrive part way through.

If you can come for four days of intense head/heart work, let us know as soon as possible! There's no cost, except a nominal room and board contribution.

Jan Steinman

Making space

Susie Anne, packing hay at a summer work party she organized.
This last weekend, December 4th, 5th and 6th, we had a three-day work party at EcoReality to sort through our collective worldly possessions and make several of our shared spaces more functional. With the help of a few of our friends we were able to organize, move, clean, discard, recycle, trade and transform in the shop/barn, garage, woodshed and Moby, the gweat, white wefwidgerater, twailer (the 48’ cold storage semi that belongs to Jan and Carol and is now used for hmmm….cold storage).

Before I say one more thing I want to state my appreciation and amazement of the weather we received during the work party. In early December anything could happen and has since by way of frozen pipes and frozen vehicles. The whole weekend was sunny and pleasant and I am sure that motivated the group much more effectively than if we were all out in the frosty grey of the last few days.

In fact, we can heartily recommend Fridays for work parties (knock on wood) as they have all been remarkably sunny and pleasant for the last three months. Thank you Universe!

Susie Anne bundles cardboard at yet another work party that she organized, while Carol holds the twine.
In attendance at our sunny work party were James, Jan, Shannon, Carol, Rudy, myself, the girls (making mud pies) and our friends who came to help for several hours each, Bruce, Elizabeth and Nomi, and Dan who came from Victoria and worked with us all of Sunday.

Together we created space and order that will serve us in several ways. We have the immediate satisfaction of having worked together so well, of having tools and other items much more accessible to us, we have room in the shop in which to do some of the larger projects that come up here, and we found some things that were “lost” or forgotten to name a few. And we created an opening for the new people who will join us here at the ecovillage in the future!

So thank you to one and all for your participation in all the aspects of this event, for showing up, providing childcare, meal planning and preparation, clean ups, documentation, willing hands, hearts and minds!

For readers interested in our future work parties please visit our work party page for details and contact me directly to let us know you are coming. We usually meet every week for 3 or 6 hour work parties, usually on Fridays, usually in the sun and its usually fun.

James made a time-lapse movie of the event that I hope we can post on the Wiki for us all to enjoy.

Susie Anne Bartsch, Work Party Steward

Still neighbours, still friends

Dennis, leading his "flock" at the 2009 spring retreat.
I've just completed my move off of the EcoReality farm to a house right up the street. With shared housing as the current reality at EcoReality, I needed to move on, in order to be alone my my partner in our own, private dwelling.

I still wholeheartedly support the goals and mission of EcoReality, and I hope to contribute to its success as a part of the larger community on Salt Spring Island.


I personally believe that EcoReality is at a crossroads, and that all members recognize the need to focus on a few selected objectives that are most urgent in the next few months. Nobody would disagree that attracting new members is paramount. Their energy is needed to build and run a working farm that will be a self-sufficient producer of its food, energy, and waste-management, and their financial backing is sought in order to complete the land purchase in about a year.

As a former city-boy who'd not set foot on a farm since a second-grade field trip to a dairy in Los Angeles where I grew up, I've come to learn just how much physical effort is needed to produce food, especially when most of the land is not yet being used to produce crops. The farm needs people with years of farm experience under their belt, and it needs people with vast amounts of time do do all of the work that needs to be done.

I was inspired to move to EcoReality because I'd come to realize how urgent is the need for each one of us to do all that we can do, to become self-sufficient in food. I personally believe that many, many more people, perhaps the majority of all people alive today, will need to become part of the chain of food production. I came because I know that we all need to reduce and eventually eliminate our deposit of poisons and toxins into the soil, water and air. And I came because, on my first visit to the eco-village in March of this year, I felt the strong sense of community that had developed among those present.

Demonstration of value

Dennis, asking Starhawk a question during her EcoReality-sponsored talk.
During my time on the farm, I came to see that quite a lot of time is needed to attend to administrative and governance functions. Prospective members must be able to see and comprehend, very clearly instantly, what will be in store for them should they choose to join, and to see the incomparable value they will be receiving by investing themselves fully into a group of such highly committed individuals, all dedicated to these (as I see them) paramount goals: creating a "farm" that is food- and energy- self-sufficient, and deals with all of its own waste, and whose future residents will have used their own hands employed in natural building methods to create their own housing.

To me, a robust plan of infrastructure and land use development is called for, as a top priority, to motivate those who are visiting the farm already aware of the benefits and reasons for joining an intentional community. Recently the work parties have intensified, and I hope this continues. These concrete demonstrations of the potential of the eco-village and of the value of being a part of it will point to a rosy and productive future.

Special thanks

Dennis demonstrating his hay forking technique.
It may seem unfair that I single out one individual on the farm for my special thanks, because I have nothing but the deepest respect and admiration for all of the current six members. I have not known or worked with more talented, hard-working, and dedicated individuals, ever. Now, as I go about my daily life in my new home, the person I miss the most is Carol Wagner, with whom (along with her husband Jan Steinman) I have shared their home since June. To me Carol is the embodiment of warmth, kindness, and hospitality. I hope that anyone who visits EcoReality for a Saturday night potluck can see the amount of care that has gone into creating the space, the atmosphere, and (much of) the good food that will be eaten.

Today while visiting the Yellow House where they live, I noticed a few more of Carol's hand-made beaded holiday ornaments (snowflakes and stars) and in them I can see the loving attention that she brings to her animals, to the children from the other house who are invited over when their parents are busy, to her husband Jan, and, with a great amount of quiet and calmness, to everyone around her. Again I will say that it may be unfair to the others who all are making heroic efforts to build an eco-village out of a mere farm, but in my mind and in my heart, it is Carol who embodies for me the spirit of EcoReality. I am deeply grateful for the welcome that I have received from all members and their families. To all, my heartiest thank-you.

Dennis Lucarelli

Recent sightings

Here is a reviewed list of Internet resources and articles of particular significance to EcoReality and our values, vision, mission, and purpose.

Have you come across a link that you think might be of interest to readers of this newsletter? Send it to the editor, together with a few words about why it is important and how it relates to EcoReality, and we'll try to include it in the next newsletter.

More categorized and reviewed links are available via our reviewed links page.

The Greatest Danger 
Joanna Macy urges us to feel outrage, fear, and even despair over the state of the Earth, arguing that suppression of despair (encouraged by "positive thinking" advocates) numbs the psyche, making it less likely humans will be able to process and respond to the incredible challenges facing us. But through acknowledging despair, we can tell the truth about what is happening to our world.
Survival of the Kindest 
Social scientists at UC Berkely are challenging the "survival of the fittest" paradigm that results in excessive focus on competition. "Because of our very vulnerable offspring, the fundamental task for human survival and gene replication is to take care of others," says Dacher Keltner, co-director of UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center. "Sympathy is our strongest instinct," says Keltner.
Peter Dixon's Cheese Recipes 
With 23 cheeses to make, from Appenzeller to Tomme, Dixon's precise directions leave little room for surprise, with clear instructions, including temperature and pH ranges. Elsewhere on this site is a wealth of cheese information, including risk reduction techniques and his consulting and training schedule.
Dairy Connection 
A great source of cheese making supplies, equipment, and advice.
Home-Grown Oatmeal 
Another great missive from my favourite ag writer, Gene Logsdon. From this site, you can visit many more of Gene's gems of country wisdom.
"Rules of Thumb" for Starting an Ecovillage 
New on Diana Leafe Christian's blog site, this is a list of how to succeed when starting an ecovillage. How do we fare? We seem to be on the right track, but there are certainly a few of these 23 points that we could pay more attention to!
Gift of the Old One 
A bit of sentimental foolishness for those who love goats. If your eyes are dry by the end, you need to spend more time with animals.
The Story of Cap & Trade 
Another thought-provoking video by Annie Leonard ("The Story of Stuff") that calls into question the way that business and government are proposing to rein in global climate change. Joining luminaries like NASA climate researcher James Hansen in decrying cap and trade proposals, Leonard patiently explains the flaws in the proposed system, why it won't work, and what must be done instead.

Jan Steinman

Recent happenings

Past calendar.jpg
Here are some highlights of recent meetings and events. Click any entry for details.
Nov 2 Members' Meeting 
change in co-op purpose to include "housing," tool shed organization, classroom rental, contact continuance, more.
Nov 10 Residents' Meeting 
Class B share for contributions, consumer/supporter share class, labour policy discussion, property taxes, green shed use, more.
Nov 16 Residents' Meeting 
Starhawk event proceeds disposition, green shed use, garage and barn area use, more.
Nov 23 Residents' Meeting 
Starhawk event proceeds disposition, time sheets, request to defer December time, agenda planning, priorities planning, budget 2010, possible loan source, more.
Nov 30 Members' Meeting 
Starhawk event proceeds disposition, land title disposition, budget team formation, 2010 themes & schedule, draft budget, produce sales, woodshed moving, supporter member shares, more.
Dec 7 Residents' Meeting 
2010 monthly topics, agreement making process, winter retreat invitations, fund raising ideas, hosting UBC students, contact follow-up, new years eve party, strategic priorities, more.

Upcoming events

Busy calendar.jpg
Here are some highlights. For details, please go to the meetings page on our website. All activities are at EcoReality, 2152 Fulford-Ganges Road, Salt Spring Island (directions), unless otherwise noted.

Regular events

New.gifevery Saturday
1PM to 4:30PM work party.
every Saturday
5PM farm tour: please bring footwear appropriate for soggy fields! Please call in advance during the winter months, as we may make other plans if no one is scheduled for a tour.
every Saturday
6PM potluck: Please let us know you're coming, so we have enough place settings.
every Saturday
7:30PM movie or program: Call or check meetings to see what's playing. If nothing is planned, bring your favourite movie! (No gratuitous violence, please.)
every Monday 
9:30AM: Residents' meeting, business and work around the farm. Please ask to attend; no drop-ins, please!
New.gif every Friday 
6:30PM: "Composting" meeting; working on composting thoughts, feelings, ideas, so as to build the soil of community. Please ask to attend; no drop-ins, please!
every Friday
9:30 AM through 4:30 PM: Work party! Lunch provided if you work all day. Please plan to arrive at either 9:30 or 1PM, as we can't stop in the middle of something to orient late-comers. Drop-ins at 9:30 or 1:00 are welcome! Please let us know in advance if you'll be having lunch, so we have enough food.
New.gif last Monday of the month
9:30AM: Monthly members' meeting, more strategic and long-range than our weekly residents' meetings. Please ask to attend; no drop-ins, please!
New.gif last weekend of the month
monthly public activities. See our meetings page for details.

New weekly rhythm for work parties: Saturdays 1pm to 4:30pm

Starting January 2nd, 2010 our weekly work parties will be held on Saturday afternoons! We hope you can come and join us for a tour, the work party and the community potluck afterwards.

Schedule for Saturday Work Parties:

  • 1pm Safety Circle in front of Garage followed by a Tour of the Land (by appointment please!)
  • 1:30pm Start of Work Party (or when tour ends)
  • 4:30pm Rest and prepare for the evening potluck
  • 6pm Vegetarian Community Potluck at the Yellow House followed by a movie or presentation

To RSVP please contact the work party steward, Susie Anne Bartsch.

Specific events

Your Invitation to EcoReality’s Blue Moon New Years Celebration:

The Blue Moon Celebration 2pm to 9pm on December 31st, 2009

  • 2pm to 3pm Goat walk and tour
  • 3pm Decorate and set up Classroom for Talent Show
  • 4:15pm Prep for potluck
  • 5pm Early potluck dinner-White House to accomodate higher child volume
  • 5:40pm-6:30pm Clean up of dinner, final rehearsals, prep for evening
  • 6pm to 6:31pm Blue Moon Yoga class with Shannon and Nomi-Classroom
  • 6:30-7pm Dessert and clean up
  • 7pmish Start of Talent Show
  • 8:30pmish Closing Circle
  • 8:45pmish Dancing and Come What May

WHO: You and your family by RSVP to Susie Anne.

WHEN: 2pm to 9pmish on December 31st. 2009 (See schedule below)

WHERE: EcoReality, Classroom and the White Farm House at 2172 Fulford-Ganges Road

WHAT: A tour and goat walk, a vegetarian potluck, a blue moon meditation, a talent show and more!

WHAT IS A BLUE MOON MEDITATION?: December has two full moons and one of them happens on December 31st. That is what we call a Blue Moon! Shannon and Nomi will be hosting a 31-minute Kundalini yoga meditation in the Classroom at 6pm. Please, feel free to join them. Contact Shannon if you have any questions.

WHAT?? A TALENT SHOW?!: Yes, sign up for a 5 minute slot (or two) in our Annual Winter Talent Show that starts at 7pm. RSVP your spot through Susie Anne. Let us know if you have any special requirements such as music or a video screen, props, chairs etc and we will endeavor to get you what you need.

BRING: You and your family, a vegetarian potluck item, appropriate clothing for walking outside in the weather of the day, your own plates and marked cutlery and an empowering and enlivening vision for yourself and the world in the new year.

ALLERGIES: Let us know if there are any food allergies or sensitivities in your family. We have at least one that cannot have cow dairy, chocolate, strawberries or oranges.

Thank you for supporting EcoReality with your interest, ideas, and good thoughts!

Want to write for this newsletter? Or want to see something written about? Contact the Communication Steward with your story ideas!

EcoReality Coop (directions)
2152 Fulford-Ganges Road
Salt Spring Island, BC V8K 1Z7, Canada
+1 250.653.2024
Info AT EcoReality DOT org

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